Most of the time when we think about sneakers, we care about how they look and not much else. Performance basketball sneakers require a different calculus. These aren’t just fashion statements; they are tools of the trade. And since each position on a team has specialized skills and needs, a player’s sneaker choice needs to reflect those. What works for a big man banging for boards down low may not work for a slicing and dicing guard trying to create opportunities for his teammates.
To find the right sneaker for you, we rounded up the best basketball shoes for every position (including benchwarmers and coaches).
Best For Point Guards: Jordan CP3.VIII
The challenge for point guards is that they need freedom of movement to make quick cuts but they still require support. Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul’s latest Jordan sneaker addresses both needs. It’s a low-top, but has a ¾-length bootie that extends above the cuff to wrap the foot, and a web of straps to lock it down. The CP3.VIII also features rubber pods for extra traction when you slash toward the hoop.
Best For Shooting Guards: Adidas D Rose 5 Boost
Do not blame Derrick Rose’s frequent injuries on his shoes. The Chicago Bulls guard’s latest kicks feature Adidas’s Boost foam. This super-springy material really helps you elevate when you get off your jumper. A cage around the ankle and Sprintweb technology in the upper keep your foot in place, even while shooting from awkward angles.
Best For Small Forwards: Nike LeBron 12
It’s no surprise that the top player in the NBA right now also has one of the top shoes. The hexagonal pods on the outsole allow you to make multi-directional cuts with ease. By blending responsive cushioning in the forefoot with softer cushioning in the heel, you get all the impact protection you want without sacrificing any explosiveness.
Best For Power Forwards: Under Armour ClutchFit Drive
While Under Armour has marketed this shoe around guard Steph Curry, there is plenty for big men to like as well. The high cuff provides lateral support but the cutaway near your Achilles allows your foot to flex naturally. The ClutchFit upper wraps your foot securely but feels like a second skin.
Best For Centers: Nike Hyperdunk 2014 TB
True centers are hard to find these days, but big men who patrol the paint need a shoe that can take a pounding. Their bigger frames require additional cushioning which the Lunarlon foam on the Hyperdunk provides. The high foam collar and the Flywire construction lock feet down so that centers can be stable mixing it up with other bigs.
Best For Benchwarmers: The Panda’s Friend
As Walt “Clyde” Frazier might say, “If you’re going to ride the pine, might as well shine.” Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) is wearing these “Panda’s Friend” sneakers with a detachable Panda head and arms while playing in the Chinese Basketball Association. World Peace is actually hooping in his, but we suggest you reserve these for the bench.
Best For Coaches: Allen Edmonds Carlyle
Ever since Pat Riley stepped out in Armani suits with the Showtime-era Lakers, NBA coaches have been stepping up their sideline style game (well, aside from the Van Gundy brothers). Allen Edmonds is the official on-court shoe supplier of NBA coaches, and this plain-toe oxford with a calfskin upper and oak leather sole pairs well with just about any suit.